Winter Riding Check List

Well, it's wet, cold, windy, dark and miserable again As we all hunker down to struggle through the months of early starts, late finishes, greasy roads, poor visibility, hammering rain, bloody lorries kicking up gallons of crap in our faces..... let's have a brief reality check on some sensible stuff, even if it is obvious.

Tyres: - if you haven't looked at them for six months, do so now. Make sure there is plenty of good, deep tread. You will be needing it this winter. 1.99 recurring mm is not going to cut it. Get the pressures right and don't rely on garage forecourt gauges- get your own.

Battery: the good old kickstart was once the most useful piece of metal on the bike, but although modern systems should crank the engine over all winter, just like a car, they all too often don't. If the battery is of the totally sealed type, you might want to invest in a trickle charger and hook up every night. If, like me, you have two chunky pistons of 600cc each to turn over on a freezing cold morning, it's asking a lot to expect the battery to cheerfully do that all winter when you only do a 9 mile run each day, with enough lights on to illuminate Leicester Square. If your battery will allow you to inspect the electrolyte, do it now and top it up- not with tap water!

Chains: hate 'em, hence my love of shafties, but if you do rely on one, it has the hardest time of anything on the bike during the winter. Take it off, lovingly clean it, soak it in hot grease and put it back. Do that at least twice over the next 4 months.

Lights: buy a pack of spare bulbs, wrap it carefully in bubblewrap, and keep it under the tail hump- along with a small but powerful torch. Can save you a huge amount of grief if you suddenly blow a filament in the middle of nowhere.

Coolant: if you have it, check it. Add the right amount of anti-freeze and don't assume your dealer did it when you last allowed him to fiddle with the service manual in July.

Brakes: if you have had an enthusiatic summer, especially touring, chances are the pads are getting a wee bit thin. Treat yourself and fit new ones. Pick a nice dry Sunday and bed them in- don't leave it until commuter time at 07:15 on a dark, miserable Monday morning.

Glass and polycarb: try to keep all lenses clean, especially on long runs, especially at night. if your visor is badly scratched, invest in a new one- or if you are a real tightwad like me, get a tube of Xerapol and polish it up. Well worth having.

Lastly, please don't forget the blindingly obvious- all too often from now on visibility will be lousy, the roads will be wet and greasy, you will be colder, wetter, possibly more tired- and without doubt everyone else on the road will be more stressed, myopic, or just plain irritable. Dial it back by 30% all round- give yourself MUCH more braking room, take more time, make sure they have seen you before you do anything. Don't drink and ride- and have a Merry Christmas........

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